Daddy Longlegs or Crane Fly
The Autumn months often see an explosion of daddy longlegs, these large gangerly insects provide a real mouthful for hungry trout and are easily imitated by the angler, get it right and you are sure to experience some memorable fishing.
Perfect conditions would be an overcast warm September/October day, with overnight rain. And a moderate 6 – 12mph wind, perfect conditions for the insects to hatch and for the trout to feed. Both UK reservoirs, Elinor and Rutland have provided some exciting sport for me especially those banks that are high and grassy, for example Armley Wood to the Finches and Normanton Church to Fantasy Island.
I like to fish with the wind off my back, I tend to literally walk through the long grass, kicking my feet and stirring up the daddies, a moderate wind pushes them out onto the water; a type of legal ground baiting – I tend to do this every couple of hours or so, or if I’m moving along the bank. I like to get as much food on the water as possible, get those fish interested and feeding
Most of the daddies disturbed, land on the water 5 – 25 feet from the bank, they skate across the surface; their huge profile is distinctive and pulls the trout up to investigate.
Different approaches to fishing the daddy.
I like to fish a two fly cast, with a foam daddy on the point, this is an almost perfect representation of the real fly and it sits high on top of the water. On the dropper I fish an amber or orange hopper (not greased up at all so it sinks slowly and sits just a foot or two under the surface – held up by the foam daddy) (12ft cast of 8lb Co – polymer – 7ft to the top dropper then 5ft to the point fly)
Rises to daddies are distinctive, often they are splashy rises (compared to a head and tail rise when the fish are taking buzzers), and the fish also seem to come back for the same fly – such is the draw of such a large food source. In perfect conditions trout will take a daddy sitting high and proud on the surface, but more often they try and sink the fly with a slash of their tail, it’s for this reason you can get a high number of foul hooked fish, then once the fly is subsurface they can confidently feed and take the pattern as it’s now once subsurface and not going to escape.
The amber or orange hopper is slightly smaller and accurately imitates some of the variations of the insect (at Graham we have an almost bright yellow daddy) and because it sits subsurface is usually the pattern that takes the most fish – the trout are pulled up to the silhouette of the larger fly and take the smaller one suspended below – Both patterns are essential in order to increase your catch rate – I’ve personally fished 2 amber hoppers subsurface (as this is the fly that takes most fish) but once the daddy is off the cast the takes literally dry up. They fish more effectively as a tag team.
Once the surface activity has stopped I fish a team of 3 daddies and hoppers, all tied on size 10 hooks (heavy wire) these patterns quickly cut through the surface film but sink slowly as they are held up by the air trapped in their hackles and legs. If fished static they can reach depths of 8 – 12 ft deep, depending on speed of retrieve and leader material. Just because the pattern is no longer effective on the surface, it doesn’t mean it won’t work when fished deeper. The fish are to a certain extent (at this time of year) conditioned to feed on daddies, they expect them in the water and are used to seeing them, if you get a sudden downpour or high winds daddies can be sunken and are often naturally taken deeper than most anglers think. (3 flies – 6ft to top dropper, 4ft to middle dropper size 12, then 6ft to the point) 16ft leader of 8lb Fluro
The “Midge Tip” line is perfect for this style of fishing, with a foam daddy or popper hopper on the point and hoppers on the droppers you can make a cast and literally fish the flies on the drop, the foam pattern will hold the flies up in the water, with the droppers just subsurface, all you ever need to do is keep in touch and let the trout find your flies, takes are often very aggressive and unmissable. Your pattern are behaving just like a sunken natural dropping slowly through the surface layers.
On really windy days you can strip daddies through the surface, a popper hopper or booby hopper on the top dropper (these patterns create more disturbance than a muddler so in my opinion are better) followed by 2 daddies, both 5ft apart, Try and cover as much water and literally strip the flies back medium pace causing a disturbance, I like to stop half way back for 10 – 15 seconds, literally just waiting to see if any following fish will take, often it’s when you start to strip again that the takes occur – The fish were following and decided not to take even when left to slowly drop through the surface layer, then as you start to pull again it’s a natural reaction as they think the food is going to escape so take.(without the pause you can’t get this effect) (8lb fluro 6ft to top dropper, booby hopper or popper hopper then a further 5ft to middle dropper size 12, then a further 5ft to the point)
Patterns have all the correct attributes, that can stimulate fish into feeding, the correct profile with legs and a segmented body, legs, hackle create movement, it’s size and bulk mean that it is highly visible when it is on the surface or subsurface) Foam versions create disturbance etc.…
Goldhead daddies are usually effective on smaller still waters (rather than reservoirs), personally I’m not convinced that they are actually taken as a “Crane Fly” imitation – I believe it’s more that the pattern is fished at the correct depth, (deep as the gold bead pulls the fly down) and that the fly has the right attributes to stimulate fish into feeding i.e. size, profile etc.…Personally I find The goldhead daddy an ideal pattern for stalking , It gets down fast to the level of cruising fish, it’s visible because of its size and it’s usually tied in a natural brown non scary colour, it’s an ideal pattern to use when lures only produce follows.
My most effective daddy on small still waters is a goldhead version with knotted rubber legs, it has so much movement (I accept it’s not really a traditional daddy and could even be termed a lure, but I do consider it a must have fly) – At Lechlade a couple of years ago it was the only pattern those big browns would look at.
For Stalking it’s just a simple 12ft leader of 8 – 10lb Fluro with a goldhead daddy – occasionally I substitute a gold bead for a tungsten bead – as this allows me to get deeper faster. – I find that a sharp erratic retrieve – short 3 – 6” pulls work best as it gets the fly pulsating underwater (especially the legs) and really induces the take. Good Luck!